31. Anything is Possible

“Tommy Guptil has once owned a dairy farm, which he’d inherited from his father, and which was about two mile from the town of Amgash, Illinois.”

Anything is Possible, Elizabeth Strout

The only possible good news about me having foolishly delayed so long in reading My Name is Lucy Barton is that I had just read it when Anything is Possible came out, such that Lucy was fresh in my mind as I read this companion piece.  Strout has written a collection of short stories that involve characters mentioned in Lucy Barton, set in the town she grew up and neighboring areas.  Lucy herself arrives for a bit.  You don’t at all need to have read Lucy Barton to enjoy this book - the stories are breathtakingly good on their own, but reading the two together was amazing.  Plus, I already told you to go read Lucy Barton right away, so you might as well read both.  Altogether we are talking about maybe 400 pages in hard cover and (and they are small pages) and you would be hard pressed to find a more beautiful and clear examination of the human condition in such a small, clean package.

As I said, the stories are tangentially about the Bartons (we certainly learn a bit more about Lucy’s mother and father), but more than that they are about people.  People trying to get by, to live their lives, to connect.  Strout does so much with so little - not that the stories are spare - there is gorgeous and authentic detail - but that in a few pages she can sketch a life, tell a tale, and comment on humanity - all while just being plain old entertaining.  I can’t believe I still haven’t read her Pulitzer Prize winning novel - but I intend to remedy that.  Strout has joined Ann Patchett in the list of novelists whose laundry lists I would read if I could.  

© Carrie Dunsmore 2017